By Maria Lebron, January 2020
According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 264 million people, is the leading cause of disability, can lead to suicide, and is a major contributor globally to disease.
Causes of Depression
Depression can be caused by an interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors.
— Stressful life events can trigger depression, such as a traumatic event, unemployment, loss of a loved one, change in living conditions, etc.
— There is a relationship between physical health and depression. It is believed cardiovascular disease and chronic and severe illnesses can lead to depression. The depression can also adversely effect and aggregate the disease.
— There are biological factors which can cause depression, such as abnormalities in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression is different from the temporary emotional feelings which arise as a result of challenges we encounter in our lives. At some point, everyone has experienced depressive feelings, but at what point would it be helpful to seek treatment for these feelings? First, let’s summarize what some of the symptoms of depression are. Someone doesn’t need to manifest all of these symptoms to be diagnosed as depressed.
— low energy and fatigue (lethargy)
— a deceased interest or pleasure in activities which used to be enjoyable
— sleep disturbances
— appetite disturbances (not eating or overeating)
— difficulties concentrating
— increased anxiety or stress
— low self-esteem and feelings of “emptiness”
— inappropriate guilt
— feelings of hopelessness
— suicidal ideation
Depression can sometimes be hidden when people aren’t in touch with what they are feeling. These people may appear apathetic or not act like their usual selves without any awareness of why. Conversely, people may busy themselves with an abundance of social events, activities, projects, or work in order not to feel, be still, or be alone. When these people are confronted with their depressive feelings, they dismiss them, credit everything to just being stressed or busy, or may even get angry that someone would think they were depressed.
Some people turn to addictions (substance abuse, food, gambling, sex, etc) to deal with the depressive feelings. This situation is challenging because the addiction happens in order not to feel or as a way of coping with the feelings. The addiction will need to be treated as well as the depression.
When to Seek Treatment
When would it be helpful to seek treatment for depression? If the symptoms listed above have been present for a while or are getting worse it would be helpful to seek treatment. Depressive symptoms can improve more quickly with therapy, which prevents the depression from becoming so severe that it impairs one’s functioning or puts the person at risk.
Some people don’t seek treatment because they’re afraid that they will be put on medication. A therapist will try to treat the depression without medication, and in any event, a therapist cannot prescribe medicine — only a medical doctor can do that. However, if the depressive symptoms persist and are not alleviated through therapy, the therapist may suggest a medical consultation to determine if there is a biological cause which can be controlled with medication.
If one is dealing with a severe illness, it would be helpful to seek treatment for any depressive feelings as untreated depression can worsen the medical problems.
If you are currently struggling with depression, seeking treatment can have an immediate effect on improving your life.